Final Appeal for Funds

It’s been three months since Lama Yeshe’s Cremation Stupa was consecrated. You may remember, to be ready for the day, Tom W. and his crew performed a pretty formidable last minute sprint. It was an inspiring tour de force, indicative of a devotion so strong it knows no obstacles too great.  The stupas were consecrated but much remained to be done, namely the artwork and landscaping.

So since May 8, we’ve been progressing towards completion of the overall site, slowly manifesting a vision worthy of Lama’s radiance. We’re managing financial constraints and our fundraising efforts are still underway. Our fuel throughout has been our wish to honor and repay our teacher’s infinite kindness.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche giving Gelek instructions

Gelek, Land of Medicine Buddha’s former resident artist, painstakingly developed the artwork. Multiple Buddhist symbols, rich in meaning, now adorn the main stupa.  Like a small-sized precious gem, the result is breathtaking.

The stupas now complete, our next step is to tackle the landscaping, essential element of the overall experience. Being at the heart of Vajrapani’s Retreat Ridge, the main driver is to support an atmosphere of contemplation and reverence.  Students from around the world will be able to do retreat in a spiritual hot spot where earth meets sky, nature meets beauty and silence and space support meditation.

A friend of Vajrapani and master landscape designer, Robert Ketchell, joined the team to help us manifest this vision . Robert explained: “The ridge area may be thought of as a hand, palm upwards, cradling the stupa, which is the visual focal point of the area. Thus the intention is to draw on this element and develop its potential. Another image is that of a drop of water falling onto a calm surface, creating a series of ripples radiating out from the centre.”

We’re starting on the landscaping at the end of this month – working with indigeneous plants and integrating rock arrangements as a basis to create partial concentric circles radiating out from the center.

Financially, our projected final cost for the project is $92-$95,000. We have raised £85,000 to date. Our shortfall is currently $7,000-$10,000. We are appealing to all to help us raise the final amount to bring this project to completion. To help us raise these funds, sponsors of $500 and above will be offered two free nights in a cabin to enjoy the Ridge experience.

Help us raise the final $10,000. You can donate now to sponsor the stupa project. Any donations of $500 and above will be offered two nights in a retreat cabin to experience the completed site.

May all who contribute in any way to this project reap the fruit of pure guru devotion, the root of the path to enlightenment, and may all their temporal and ultimate wishes be fulfilled.

Big Love Day

Waouw, can’t quite believe it’s almost been a month already since the consecration. The update has been VERY long in coming. The blessings were very powerful. And the come-down has been strong too. Emerging back to balance, here is an account of the day from Jennifer Kim, project manager of Big Love Day:
On May 8, our silent ridge transformed into a joyous amphitheater to celebrate the life and Big Love energy of Lama Yeshe. Tom Waggoner and his team made the finishing touches on the cremation stupa, as hundreds of people descended upon the land to consecrate the stupa and rejoice in all our virtuous activity during and after Lama’s passing.

We were graced by the holy presence of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, as well as by Osel, Yangsi Rinpoche and Geshe Dakpa. We were also extremely fortunate for long-time students such as Ani-la Ann McNeil, Sister Max, Nick Ribush, and Peter Kedge to make the long journey here to celebrate this special day with us.

Two dakinis, Jennifer Kim and Angelica Walker, offering dance to the gurus

Fortunately, the rain clouds were held at bay on this and prior days. However, a beautiful rainbow manifested above the stupa in the sky, shortly after it was finished — leaving us wondering … what other unseen beings were part of this event?

Osel during the consecration ceremony

Beautiful torma, food and flower offerings adorned the stupa while three esteemed monks from the Gyuto Vajrayana Center led the consecration. This beautiful ceremony and tsog offering was followed by a heartfelt, joint request from the centers of the FPMT Bay for Lama Zopa Rinpoche to stay an extended period of time in the area and teach.

Afterwards, the korwa (pathway) of the stupa transformed into a stage, where students were able to make music, dance and performance offerings for the enjoyment of our holy Lamas and for all attending.

Many people stayed afterwards to feast on home-cooked Indian food. Our precious Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Yangsi Rinpoche dined in our Gompa and kindly received students, while others had fun reminiscing, catching up, and making new friends.  The Gompa later transformed into a dance hall with DJ for those wanting to dance the night away.

Finally – after hours of basking in blissful, loving energy, creating beautiful energy anew, and dedicating it towards the happiness of all sentient beings – Vajrapani transformed back into a (somewhat quiet!) retreat center – ready to serve Lama Zopa Rinopche and devoted students wanting to learn about the Nyung Nae practice.

Wow – we did it!  We ALL did it! Looking back at the unfolding of events, there were so many opportunities for this event to have never been able to manifest.  Were it not for the dedication of Lama Yeshe, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and all their disciples – manifesting enlightened activity and supporting the dharma in so many ways -we would have no opportunity to rejoice and create fresh stores of positive energy for the future.

View of the stupas from behind

With sincere gratitude, we thank all those who helped bring Lama Yeshe’s consecration stupa to life, all those who helped make Big Love Day possible, and all who came to celebrate with us.

Hope you may enjoy the photos.
http://dionne.smugmug.com/Clients/Big-Love-Day-at-Vajrapani/12244664_fgJJ4#872675504_qWTkS

The stupa and stupa site are close to completion. The artwork remains to be done, as well as final hard and soft-scaping including putting asphalt down on the parking area so we can transform the Stupa Ridge into a pedestrian zone. The remaining work is estimated at $10,000.

You can donate now to sponsor the stupa project or to sponsor the most precious relics of all, the Dharmakaya relic mantras which will fill all four stupas. Out of 4 million, about 800,000 have been sponsored so far.

May all who contribute in any way to this project reap the fruit of pure guru devotion, the root of the path to enlightenment, and may all their temporal and ultimate wishes be fulfilled.

Four Day Countdown

10am 5 days prior to consecration

Here we were at 10am this morning. Ed and the concrete-boys danced around the korwa in their thick rubber boots laying down the concrete. In four days Lama Zopa Rinpoche will be setting his feet on the same concrete, together with many special guests including Yangsi Rinpoche, Geshe Dagkpa, the Gyuoto Monks and two hundred of us.

Artist Gelek Sherab preparing the Kadampa stupas

Gelek Sherab, resident-artist at Land of Medicine Buddha, was enlisted to help solve the Kadampa stupa bubble challenge – Gelek is going over the three Kadamp stupas inch by inch to remove any ‘bubbles’ that occured during the pour. He arrived on the land this morning with his contagious beaming smile and rolls of specialized epoxy putty manufactured a continent away in Wales.

The microfilm mantra printing error turned out to be a blessing – although at the time a somewhat stressful blessing. We managed to order twice as many mantras – we have now 4 million dharmakaya relic mantras that were blessed by Choden Rinpoche last week. We may even be able cut the original microfilm and thereby exceed 4 million. All this of course is being discussed admist the dozens of other technical challenges – all to be resolved and implemented within the next 4 days!

Tom and his crew are doing a truly spectacular job – pushing to the limit and constantly checking, checking, checking that the many non-traditional stupa elements of this unusual project are adapted in the best, most auspicious way.

Join us for Big Love Day.

There is still time to donate now to sponsor the most precious relics of all, the Dharmakaya relic mantras which will fill all four stupas. Out of 4 million, about 800,000 have been sponsored so far.

May all who contribute in any way to this project reap the fruit of pure guru devotion, the root of the path to enlightenment, and may all their temporal and ultimate wishes be fulfilled.

How Lama hooked an angel from New York City – two years ago

Friends, our entry today has been contributed by Jennifer Kim, our project manager of Big Love Day (the stupa’s consecration ceremony on May 8), Vajrapani’s office manager of two years, and personal friend of many. We leave you with the story of a Big Love-angel.

A little over 2 years ago, I was sitting in my apartment in New York City – surfing the Internet. I had stumbled upon Vajrapani’s website.
I started reading about the history of Vajrapani and its founder, Lama Yeshe. I came to the part about his passing and cremation in 1984.
Uncontrollably, tears started streaming down my face. His passing struck a chord within my heart – the heart that was yearning to give
more, understand more, and love more. It was one of the strongest responses I’ve had in my life thus far.

A little while later, I came to Vajrapani for my first retreat here – a Vajrasattva retreat with Jon Landaw, one of Lama’s students.  After
being very moved by this retreat, I found out that an Office Manager position was open here. I wound up serving in this position. Now
around 2 years later, with my upcoming departure, I am somehow involved in the ceremony where his cremation stupa will be
consecrated.  Understanding that there’s nothing really special about the work I produce for Vajrapani, I feel grateful for the opportunity
to serve in this way.

Over the past few years, and especially in preparation for this event, I’ve started to think a bit more about timing and connections. I’ve
witnessed too many instances where the “timing has worked out perfectly,” with the right people coming at the right time.  (I guess
“right” is a subjective term based on one’s desired goal.)  Anyway, many people in the dharma community have commented on this phenomenon.
Time seems to be more of a function of our connections with each other rather than the clock. And if time can be viewed as a function of our
connections with each other, while the clock is a short-hand way for us to communicate on stuff,  then I wonder if we’ve got it backwards
when believing that our linear model of time is reality itself.

Preparing the seating for this event has also been really interesting – prompting me to think more about space and intention. For this
event, we’re arranging the seating to go around the stupa.  I’ve started to think about the various ways in which we arrange seating in
our society. We arrange seating around TV sets, around delicious pizza, around Lady Gaga performing, around baseball fields, around all
sorts of stuff. (I especially like to arrange seating around pizza.) So it’s quite rare that we have an occasion to arrange seating around
the enlightened mind, as embodied by the stupa.

Wow – the more I think about it … really, really, really rare.

I’ve been so amazed working with the team here.  Such dedicated and kind-hearted people all working towards the same goal. It is such a
privilege, honor and joy working with each person here. I am continuously amazed by their creativity and huge heart.
Anyway, I hope that if you’re reading this and have a slight interest in coming on May 8 … please come!!! I think it will be a very
special day. We truly are doing this for you.

Join us for Big Love Day.

There is still time to donate now to sponsor the most precious relics of all, the Dharmakaya relic mantras which will fill all four stupas.

May all who contribute in any way to this project reap the fruit of pure guru devotion, the root of the path to enlightenment, and may all their temporal and ultimate wishes be fulfilled.

“Awesome”

For fear of sounding like a teenage american, the word ‘awesome’ doesn’t come to mind so much and yet tonight it resonates loud and clear. I finally stumbled upon Venerable Roger’s new blog on Mandala Magazine’s website which recounts life on the road with Lama Zopa Rinpoche. I found it, well, you’ve guessed, awesome.

When I first started working at Vajrapani Institute, Diana Weddigen, our Assistant Director at the time, shared with me advice that almost tattooed itself into the recesses of my mind. I was probably suffering from another navel-gazing attack, maybe feeling burn-out from my couple of 8 1/2 hour days or whatever was going on, Diana kindly explained that capacity for offering service grows as one’s practice develops. The more one learns to cherish others, the greater one’s capacity to joyfully offer service becomes. She advised me to be patient and watch as my capacity would develop and to think of Rinpoche to remind myself that that capacity can be limitless.

Ribur Rinpoche's Sarnath Buddha

And so when I stumbled upon Venerable Roger’s blog, Diana’s words, never too far from my mind, came to me. Reader, if you would like to have some sense of what it looks like to live a life dedicated to others, dive into Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s daily world. And hopefully you’ll notice not just Rinpoche’s 24/7 selfless antics, but the 24/7 gymnastics Rinpoche’s entourage engage in to support his activities. Venerable Roger, Holly, Kunsang and Samden, are, let me please use that word again, awesome. As I type these words, the sound of a Clint Eastwood-type western tune comes to mind. I wished it was more holly than that but I guess that’s one form of hero association.

And here’s a quick stupa-update. The Dharmakaya relic mantras printed on microfilm have arrived. Because of a printing error that occured, we have to have them reprinted. OR cut and splice the film 1,345 times which probably would have taken us until 2017. So we cancelled the blessing of the Tsog ching (stupa’s ‘central chanel) and mantras with Choden Rinpoche scheduled for tomorrow. Scrambling to reprint the mantras to have them blessed asap and rolled around the tsog-ching. And breathe. Business as usual.

Yesterday the Sarnath Buddha Ribur Rinpoche donated to Varjapani in the early 2000’s found an amazing new home at the entrance of the main Gompa.

Join us for Big Love Day.

There is still time to donate now to sponsor the most precious relics of all, the Dharmakaya relic mantras which will fill all four stupas.

May all who contribute in any way to this project reap the fruit of pure guru devotion, the root of the path to enlightenment, and may all their temporal and ultimate wishes be fulfilled.

24 days to go…

Stupa site 24 days prior to consecration

So here we are, today is Thursday 15th April. 10pm. Two hours left to file tax returns. And 24 days left to finish 4 stupas. Well, not quite 24. Count 6 days of weekends, plus 4 days of rain scheduled next week, that’s actually 14 working days. Look at the picture above, taken four hours ago and this gives you some sense of what’s ahead of us.

In 14 working days then, Lama Zopa Rinpoche will set His feet on the Ridge alongside about two hundred of you to consecrate the site. Tom (who heads the construction site) was telling me the other day that his head is so full of details swirling around competing for attention that meditation in the morning is a tad challenging.

Everyday I walk up to the Ridge to review the days progress and discuss details with Tom. Daily the team inspires with new details – samples of acid wash for the stuco bases; new path outlines for the korma; prayer flags hung; sanskrit lettering on the thrones; gold leafing; and lighting details – hours and hours of lighting detail discussion.

Jennifer, Tom and Heidi

The construction is just one aspect. The other aspect is the planning of the event itself. Meet Jennifer – former Office Manager – who is now project managing the entire Big Love Day (aka Consecration Day). On the left of Tom is a glowing Heidi, Vajrapani’s Spiritual Program Coordinator who has the task of organizing all the ritual aspect of this day as well as the Great Chenrezig Initiation and Nyung Nae Commentary (May 6-10), and the 14 other retreats we are hosting this year! Not a small job.

These are heros, three heros amongst the 11 other heros on Vajrapani’s staff that deserve to be named again and again and again – Venerable Tenzin Chogkyi and resident monk Venerable Jangchup, Anil, Jacob, Quinn, Orion, Steve, Angelica, Ben, Carolina, Judy – a couple handful heros amongst the many thousands within Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s FPMT mandala. And like Tom keeps on reminding his crew and all those he meets – all this we do for others – your donations and encouragements, the building, the planning, the party and after-party – all this is to help others. Tonight, my heart is overflowing with gratitude and joy.

Join us for Big Love Day.

There is still time to donate now to sponsor the most precious relics of all, the Dharmakaya relic mantras which will fill all four stupas.

May all who contribute in any way to this project reap the fruit of pure guru devotion, the root of the path to enlightenment, and may all their temporal and ultimate wishes be fulfilled.

The man that brought Lama’s body back to Vajrapani

is the same man that’s building the Cremation Site stupas 25 years later – Tom Waggoner.

Adele Hulse, the author of Lama’s upcoming biography ‘Big Love‘, recently sent me an account of Lama’s cremation. It tells the story of Tom in his white pick up truck driving Lama’s body in a casket half way across California. The scene it depicts would seem too far fetched for a movie- and yet here they were. Whatever myriad obstacles would normally manifest didn’t materialize. Not that day, nor the previous day when John Jackson magically pulled off a permit for burning Lama’s body.

I leave you with the account of those two days – excerpts from ‘Big Love’

Sunday, March 4th

John Jackson flew back to Vajrapani to begin preparations for the cremation.  What authority did they need to cremate at Vajrapani?  And how could they find out, as it was a Saturday and all the offices were shut. The mortician called the Governor of California’s office and the Boulder Creek environment protection office, who said they simply needed a two-dollar fire permit. ‘We told them it was to burn a body, but they said it was the same permit to burn brush,’ said John Jackson. ‘We said thank you so much. It was astounding that we were able to pull that off.   Later it turned out there had been a misunderstanding, and they would have felt very differently about burning a body.  But by then it was too late.’

Lama Yeshe’s death certificate stated his occupation as ‘Buddhist monk’ and the number of years in such employment as ‘life’.  His employer was listed as ‘Mahayana Buddhism’ in the industry of ‘Religion’.

More students gathered at the Los Angeles mortuary, all of them noting the bliss and serenity on Lama’s face. ‘Lama looked really beautiful,’ said Lennie Kronisch. ‘There wasn’t a line on his face, his eyes were closed and slightly turned up at the corners like a beatific Buddha.  You could just feel the energy coming off his body. For the first twenty-four hours after he died there was this incredible radiance and I thought: this stuff is all true!’

Lama Zopa’s instructions were not to embalm the body.  Lama’s holy body now lay in a simple chipboard casket covered in grey cotton felt, over which a magenta silk robe was draped along with the yellow chogu.  Lama Zopa and the students spent the night there doing Thirty-Five Buddhas practice, Vajrasattva mantra, prostrations and meditation until dawn.

TAKING THE HOLY BODY BACK TO VAJRAPANI

Monday 5th March

Tom Waggoner packed the casket with dry ice, with instructions from Rinpoche to replenish it when necessary and take great care.   The box was then carefully loaded onto the back of Tom’s pick-up truck and tied down, the tailgate left open to accommodate its length. (…)

Around midday Tom set off for Vajrapani, Rinpoche following directly behind in Doren’s van and two cars of students behind that.  They stopped at a gas station just out of Los Angeles, where everyone carefully washed Tom’s white truck until it was immaculate.  At meal stops they parked the truck right under the restaurant window.  They needed to see it.  The journey lasted some thirteen hours.

There is still time to donate now to sponsor the most precious relics of all, the Dharmakaya relic mantras which will fill all four stupas.

May all who contribute in any way to this project reap the fruit of pure guru devotion, the root of the path to enlightenment, and may all their temporal and ultimate wishes be fulfilled.